Saturday, April 23, 2016

"objective relevance", "subjective apprehension"

"It was an intolerable truncation of the Christian message when the older Protestantism steered the whole doctrine of the atonementand with it, ultimately, the whole of theologyinto the cul de sac of the question of the individual experience of grace, which is always an anxious one when taken in isolation, the question of individual conversion by it and to it, and of its presuppositions and consequences. The almost inevitable result was that the great concepts of justification and sanctification came more and more to be understood and filled out psychologically and biographically, and the doctrine of the Church seemed to be of value only as a description of the means of salvation and grace indispensable to this individual and personal process of salvation. We will only ask in passing whether and to what extent Luther's well-known question in the cloister-which was and will always be useful at its own time and place-contributed if only by way of temptation to this truncation, or whether it is simply an aberration first of orthodoxy and then of the Pietism which began in it and followed it. What is more to the point is to remember (and this, too, is something we can only mention) that we will do well not to allow ourselves to be crowded again into the same cul de sac on the detour via Kierkegaard.
     "Certainly the question of the subjective apprehension of atonement by the individual man is absolutely indispensable. And it belongs properly to the concluding section of the doctrine of reconciliation-yet not in the first place, but in the second. . . ."

     Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/1, trans. Bromiley (1956 []), p. 150.

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